The Shipwreck Of Civilization

In the middle of November, in the weekend between 12-14, at least five boats arrived on Samos, carrying a total of 141 people, a hectic weekend for organizations like Aegean Boat Report who try to document their arrival and assist so that people are not pushed back to Turkey.

Of the 141 people arriving this weekend that we knew about, only 48 people was registered as arrived on Samos by the Greek authorities, 93 men, women and children was forcibly removed from the island. (The Turkish coast guard found and picked up 118 people in the area around Samos in the same time period, so we assume that there were more than the five boats we had contacted with).

To try to support new arrivals without any support from organizations on the ground is in most cases impossible, it limits us to give advice, document and publish information to make public awareness. For most of the people arriving this weekend, our assistance was of little help, if any at all. My personal opinion, we failed miserably, and the once paying the price for our failure was the men, women and children pushed back.

Before first light on November 12, a boat carrying 31 people landed on Cape Praso, Samos north east. This is a remote area without any roads, and people started moving west in the dark, towards Vaty.

People from the group contacted several organizations for assistance, amongst them the Greek Helsinki Monitor and Aegean Boat Report. Advice was given to move towards the monastery of Zoodohos Pigi. Information was sent by email to several organizations, NGO’s, local authorities and the Greek ombudsman, to inform that the group wanted to apply for asylum.

One organizations agreed to go to the monastery this day, but for some reason they didn’t find anyone when they arrived. Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or the group was delayed. But when the group finally arrived the following morning at the monastery, Saturday morning, there were no organization there, only the police. Why police were there on this morning we don’t know, but we can assume that the organizations had alerted the authorities of the presence of new arrivals in this area.

Contact with this group was lost on Saturday morning, after they informed us that police was at the Monastery. What happened with the group is unknown, but eight of them was later this day found by the Turkish coast guard in a rocky area of Kusadasi, claiming that the Greek Coast Guard had removed them from Samos.

From pictures published by the Turkish coast guard, we have positively identified the 8 people to be from the group of 31 that arrived on Cape Praso the previous day.

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On Saturday morning another boat carrying 17 people arriving on Livadaki Beach, Samos north east. The group contact Aegean Boat Report for assistance.

The group sent pictures, videos and location data, there was no doubt of their presence on Samos.

A local asset on Samos went to the location and found the group, first some on the dirt track, afterwards the rest of the group hiding in the surrounding areas. They were very scared, and didn’t trust anyone, the asset on location wasn’t able to convince them that it was there with good intentions, and pulled back.

Leaving the are a yellow car was observed picking up four of the new arrivals, later the car came back and picked up more people. Who was driving this car, and where the people were taken to is not known, but it was not a car belonging to the authorities.

If this yellow car picked up everyone from this landing, or what happened to the rest we have not been able to determine, but several days later, on November 16, 17 people was registered as arrived on Samos, if it was people from this group, we actually don’t know.

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At the same time another boat landed close to Isomata, Samos south west carrying 26 people.

The group contacted the Greek Helsinki Monitor for assistance, and a new email was sent to local organizations, NGO’s, local authorities and the Greek Ombudsman, containing 18 people from this group asking to be able to apply for asylum.

The following day, November 15, 28 people was officially registered by Greek authorities as arrived on Samos, we believe that 26 of them came from the arrivals in Isomata the previous day.

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In the early hours of November 13, more boas arrived on Samos, this time in the north west, one in Potami carrying 27 people and one in Paralia Megalo, carrying 36 people.

People from the Potami landing contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, they also contacted other organizations like the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), who collected personal information from all 27. GHM sent an email to organizations, NGO’s, authorities, the Greek ombudsman etc, to inform that the group would like to apply for asylum in Greece.

From pictures, videos and location data received by Aegean Boat Report from the arrivals in Potami, there was no doubt that they were in Potami, Samos north west.

We remained in contact with the group throughout Saturday, until midday Sunday, when contacted with the group was lost. We could assume that they might have run out of power on their phones, all at once, but more likely was that police had found them, and confiscated their phones, as they usually do.

We didn’t manage to get any help for this group, nobody on Samos was willing to try to give any assistance for these vulnerable people, in fear of repercussions from the Greek authorities. This is usually the case on most Greek islands, nobody wants to help, most in fear of their own safety, the prospect of being arrested isn’t very appealing.

There is of course also other reasons why some of these organizations on the Greek Aegean islands isn’t very interested in helping. If you look at their pages online you would find no criticism towards the Greek government, camp situation, human right violations or pushbacks. They are in fact willing to close their eyes to all of this, to have the opportunity to continue to work inside these camps, because it’s financially very profitable, especially for the founders. It’s not unusual for a relatively small organization to have founders with fancy titles like «Secretary General, CEO», and a salary that matches. Everything might look good from the outside, but if anyone starts to really look into these organizations, things might change a bit, especially their attitude towards the one trying to expose them for what they really are, they get really nasty really fast.

In the early hours of November 16, at 03.10, the Turkish coast guard found and rescued 27 people from a life raft drifting outside Kusadasi, Turkey. Many of the people rescued were children, and in the group there were three pregnant women.

From pictures and videos provided by the refugees while on Samos, compared with footage published by the Turkish coast guard, there is no doubt, it’s the same group that was in Palio, Samos north east.

From testimonies from the people onboard the life raft, there is no doubt on who placed them in this potentially life treating situation. They had been arrested by police on Samos, held on the island until dark and forced back to sea at gunpoint. Many very brutally beaten, all belongings was taken, money, phones and papers confiscated by Greek police, before abandoned in a life raft by the Hellenic coast guard, on direct orders from the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

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The fifth boat this Weekend arrived in Paralia Megalo Saturday morning, and was reported to be carrying 36 people.

After arriving the group split up in several smaller groups, some went into hiding in the surrounding areas, but one group of 6 people started moving east in the dark.

The group was found by police in the outskirts of Potami in the afternoon on Saturday and all contact was lost. At 08.45, November 14, Turkish coast guard reported to have spotted 6 people on land in an remote area in Kusadasi. From pictures taken on Samos compared to pictures published by the Turkish coast guard of those found in Kusadasi the following morning,we have positively identified all 6.

On Monday morning, November 15, 06.20 an, a group of 13 people was picked up from a life raft drifting outside Seferihisar, Turkey. These 13 was identified as being a part of the group from the landing in Paralia Megalo on Saturday.

The remaining 17 people from this group we have not been able to track, some might be amongst those who where registered as arrived in the quarantine structure on Samos. Between 13.11.2021-17.11.2021 a total of 54 people was registered, 28 on November 15 and 17 on November 16, but more likely amongst the 93 pushed back this weekend.

This is unfortunately the reality on the borders of Europe today, Europe politicians no longer defends our European values, these values are gone, they are just words without substance, used in speeches to make it look like they are doing something, they are not.

Artwork by Yorgos Konstantinou

There is absolutely no doubt who is responsible for this illegal pushbacks, and it’s also no doubt that the EU Commission and it’s representatives won’t lift a finger to try to stop these violations, it’s an embarrassment, not only for the EU commission, but for the whole of Europe.

This has been going on for over 19 months, 25.000 people have been illegally pushed back in the Aegean Sea, 450 life rafts found drifting carrying 8000 people, all by the hands of the Greek government, blessed by the EU Commission. Violations of international laws and human rights financed by EU taxpayers money.

Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson is using fancy words in a speech at the plenary debate on pushbacks at the EU external border, “Pushbacks should never be normalised. Pushbacks should never be legalized”, unfortunately both are a lie.

Pushbacks are in deed normalized, the results we can see in Greece, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Polen, actually the whole Balkan route and the external border to The EU.

To say that pushbacks never should be legalized on one side, and finance it on the other side seems strangely contradictory. Frontex presence on the border of the EU is massive, never before in the history of Frontex has more troops been deployed at the EU border, state of the art technology and surveillance systems, but despite all this, they haven’t reported one single pushback, no violations of human rights, nothing, doesn’t anyone find that a bit odd?

Perhaps it’s difficult to report on something that they are a part of, but for EU politicians to try to make it as this is not their policy, not their responsibility, lying and trying to disguise the truth, it’s an embarrassment.

This is “the shipwreck of civilization”, performed in our name, on our watch.

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